Consumers Expect Long-Term Changes Due to COVID-19

Shopping behaviors, saving priorities, workplace policies likely to see long-lasting modifications
A man working with hand sanitizer and a mask

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the way consumers live and work in recent weeks, and a new survey suggests that some of those changes may be long-lasting and in some cases, even permanent.

American consumers expect it to take an average of 15 more weeks for life to begin returning to some sense of normalcy, according to a global survey by public relations firm FleishmanHillard conducted between March 30 and April 3. Even at that point, certain habits and behaviors may never go back to what they were before the coronavirus outbreak, the survey suggests.

As the pandemic began to affect more and more people, businesses began making changes to protect their employees. Now, survey respondents expect those changes to remain in place even after the immediate threat has subsided. Specifically:

  • 91% expect companies to implement measures to protect workers, such as providing them with protective equipment and hand sanitizer
  • 63% want benefits that were offered during the crisis to be made permanent
  • 26% of U.S. workers who previously worked in an office setting now expect to have the option to work remotely

If employers don’t take proactive steps to protect their employees, they may find it challenging to retain their best workers. In fact, 26% of respondents said they will look for a new job with an employer that supports its employees, will no longer be loyal to an employer because of its actions during the pandemic or will research how an organization treated its employees during the pandemic when considering a new job.

Consumer behaviors likely to change

Not only do consumers plan on continuing being cautious and doing what they can to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, but most respondents — 95% — said they want the companies they work at and patronize to continue implementing social distancing measures as well.

Many respondents also expect to make long-term changes on the way they shop and how they handle their money. Nearly two-thirds of respondents — 65% — said they are delaying purchases and travel amid the current uncertainty. Also, 52% said they intend to continue with the changes they’ve made to their buying behaviors. When it comes to shopping in general, 68% said the COVID-19 outbreak has changed their perspective on what products and services are important.

The change in buying behaviors comes as 34% of respondents said they are postponing major life decisions in general. Over a quarter of respondents — 26% — said they will take planning for major life decisions more seriously after the pandemic is over.

Some consumers are also making adjustments to the way they manage their money. According to the survey, 27% are currently saving more than they do under normal circumstances. On top of that, 26% said they plan to continue saving more in the future — even after the immediate threat subsides.

Methodology

To gain insight into consumers’ perceptions about the pandemic across the world, FleishmanHillard surveyed 6,566 adults in China, Germany, Italy, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States between March 30-April 3, 2020.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.